Usquebaugh – Water of Life

I said I would, and I have. Detox that is.

Ten whole days of sobriety. Must sound like some kind of alcoholic, but my life has pretty much always revolved around the liquor industry.

It started when I worked as a bar lady during varsity. The Randburg Waterfront – hottest place in town. For a short while anyway. (Until someone called ‘Major Dad’ ruined it all – if I can remember correctly!)

My bar was upstairs; I wore a ridiculously small black t-shirt, showing off my belly ring and tight jeans with docs.  I quickly learnt to lip read, carry five shooters in one hand and unpack a case of beers in record time.  I remember Thursday night’s Mean Mr Mustard played and Saturdays Barney Simon hosted the battle of the Bands. It was a pretty cool place.

On the drinks front: I learnt how to make springboks, blow jobs, Long Island iced teas – varying in colour. . .My favourite shooter was Harley Davidson:  black sambuca with Stroh rum. I got to know the regulars, met some pretty interesting people and made a small fortune in tips. One sucker wrote his number on a hundred rand note. Then on the real downside – I was witness to some horrible bar fights – the notorious, violent, psycho bouncers in Randburg that got away with murder.

For a long time the people I worked with were like family. There was a Swedish girl and her fiancé, bartending around the world. A surfer who wanted to be a pilot but was struggling to give up weed and this guy from my high school,  who was saving up to go to Magic school! He was awesome and would often set the bar alight with this fancy trick paper stuff.

After shift, we drank jugs of Apple Hooch (the most disgusting stuff I think they ever came up with!) and played pool, sometimes watched the 9am movie before passing out for the rest of the day…best job of my life.

So after getting my degree – it of course qualified me to become a liquor rep. I started in the East Rand – with clients like the airport and Caesars place. Lesson number one was you can’t sell whisky as a chic unless you can drink it! That’s the practical side – the theoretical…well there was a world of new subject matter to learn.  The different whisky’s, cognac, champagne, wine, bourbon. There regions, concoctions, history, the alchemy. The interesting trivia that contradicts common mans understanding:  Jack Daniels: not bourbon. Whisky from Scotland without  an  ‘e’ in the spelling,  and whiskey from Ireland, with one. (Just frivolous and unnecessary like the triple distillation – in my humble opinion). Havana Club Rum is the real Cuban rum. Once you open a bottle of port it is only good for maybe a week.  Pernod – wow what an undervalued spirit. It was the original brand of absinthe in the 19th century. It is rare to find anyone drinking it – but I have yet to go into a semi respectable bar and not see it sitting on the shelves. I took part in tastings, tried to hold my own in trade fairs. Went to music festivals, made endless Cuban cocktails, and found myself in endless debates about the virtue, or lack of, single malt on the rocks. (I am in favour – most traditionalists are against.)   I was one of those dolled up birds in a black velvet cocktail dress tempting you to drink my wares.  In hindsight it’s no wonder my English honours degree took a back seat…

I was also told that whisky originates from Ireland – but to this day I am strongly opposed to such nonsense.

It was during this job that I met my ex. He is regarded as an oenophile in the industry. Every wine, every cultivar has a story. He introduced me to labels and wine estates I had never heard of, certain bottles so precious they brought tears to his eyes. I drank old wines, young wines. Fell in love with Pinot Noir. We drank wine, copious bottles of wine; I was completely spoilt for choice.

Then came 2009…and well enough said.


6 thoughts on “Usquebaugh – Water of Life

  1. Hey DT, I loved reading about your jobs, you are an expert! I love wine, but have not the foggiest clue what is good or bad, and I can’t believe you could actually drink a Harley Davidson, never mind it being your favourite! Blegh 🙂

  2. Oh Po, you can’t imagine the vast variance of possibilities in this one who is known as DT… anything is possible! I can picture her downing Harley’s in a red velvet corset and black leather hotpants, then dancing on the tables before riding off into the sunrise in a studded, silver pumpkin. Don’t think chick, just write. Your writing is, as always, touched by magic. Mwah.

  3. Po – I really don’t think I am an expert – and with wine, what you like and don’t like is all you need to know – it is a personal discovery. Just don’t be afraid to try new things and think about the reasons you like or don’t like a type of wine. I very much doubt I could drink a Harley now…I think I had an iron gut when I was younger! 🙂

    ModelM – Hahahaha I LOVE it a ‘silver studded pumpkin’! I WANT ONE! Thank you my beautiful friend for your wonderful reassurance and for your magical descriptive ways!

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